Friday, January 31, 2014

Adapting Lessons for Grade School Students

[My Notes]
There are so many great resources out there for teaching so many things, but often the lessons I find online do not match the grade level I am looking for.  So then I am in the position of choosing to keep looking or figure out how to adapt the lesson to my students' level.
This week I was looking for a lesson to dovetail on the 3rd grade's exploration of the Harlem Renaissance.  When I was talking with the teachers, they said that they would like the students to hear more of the poetry and music of the time.
So I went looking for a "culture gallery" of the Harlem Renaissance appropriate for 3rd grade, and I have not found it yet.  I did find a great site designed for 9th grade and it was put together by  The resources linked from here are good and the classification activity is solid, the students are asked to create a Venn Diagram about Art, Music, and Poetry of the time.
My challenge is to make this content accessible and provide enough scaffolding that the students can explore a topic and create a Venn diagram in the time available.  To do this I am going to jigsaw the work, have students work in pairs, and have 3 pairs team up and share information.  I am also going to make the "research" much more simple and create a gallery of art, music, and poetry.  The galleries will all be on one page so the students do note have to "go" anywhere else.  Lastly I will create a paper scaffolding sheet so they can keep track of the words they are using to describe each category of art.

[the 3rd Grade Lesson]

Understanding The Harlem Renaissance Through Art, Music, and Poetry

We are learning about the Harlem Renaissance by looking at and listening to the art, music, and poetry of the time.  Today in class you will be paired up into observation teams.  each team will look at and listen to a different part of the Harlem Renaissance experience through art, music, and poetry.  As you observe you will take notes about what you observe, writing down words that describe what you see or hear.  
You will work with your group to create a diagram that shows what qualities art, music, and poetry of the time have in common.  We will create the Venn diagram on the computer and print it out when we are done.
A Venn diagram

Observation and Note-Taking


Watch this video, pause it as you need to if you want to get a better look at the images.

You will need to be ready to share your list of words that descibe this art with your team members:


Listen to the poems of Langston Hughes

Read the poems "Harlem" by Walter Dean Myers

You will need to be ready to share your list of words that descibe this poetry with your team members:


If your pair has been assigned music, watch the overview video and listen to a couple of songs.  Then work together to create a list of words that you feel describe the music.

Over View of: Jazz and Blues of the Harlem Renaissance

A Playlist of songs

You will need to be ready to share your list of words that descibe this music with your team members:

Looking for more resources?  Check out the books from our Library:

Making your Venn Diagram.

1. You need to complete your List of Characteristics for music, art, or poetry.
2. Meet with the other teams and share your list.
3. Copy their list onto your notes.

Your First screen:

Type your first name in the box and then click on "Begin by Making a List"
Add the words from your Art notes, be sure to spell them correctly! When you have all the words copied, click next.
Add the words from your Music notes, be sure to spell them correctly! When you have all the words copied, click next.
Add the words from your Poetry notes, be sure to spell them correctly! When you have all the words copied, click next.

You will place each word onto the circle that applies.  Look for words that were on more than one list, place those on the overlapping of the circles they share.  Think about your terms, do some seem to apply to music, art, and poetry? place these on the area where all 3 overlap.  You can use the + and - signs on each circle to make it bigger as you need.  

When you are done, please print.  You cannot save the image or share without printing.  

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Beginning Scratch Unit Grade 4

Today we are getting started Scratch, a desktop-based programming platform that uses visual objects to build a computer program.  You may have worked with a visual programming platform in the past, such as Hopscotch on the iPad.

Commands are divided into families and color-coded
To get started we are going to explore some simple movement and animation.  One of the amazing things about Scratch is the depth of online resources for learning how to program in scratch.  We will be using a lesson from Lesson one, video one, get moving  Watch all 3 tutorials before you open Scratch and create a walking sprite of your own.
Watch the video and follow the directions to create your first project in scratch.  As we work in Scratch we will be using lessons and examples of other projects to guide our learning and inspire our designs.  Scratch can be used for so many different purposes that working with the program can help you see how "programming" is actually involved in advertisements, animations, games and more.
Master the Move Menu! 
As you find other resources, projects, and games in scratch, be sure to share them with the class and we will organize the resources on this webpage, our tech class blog.

Are You Interested in continuing working with Scratch at home?
Sign up for scrach with the offical scratch web site.  Students can use this site to create a free account.  All students under 13 will need a parent email account to complete the registration process.

1. go to
This is the welcome screen

2. Click on this one to get started

3. Choose a username and password that is easy to remember

4. This is the second screen, when you put your birth year it changes:

5. This is where the parent email is needed
Be sure to explore the site once you sign in.  You will be able to use this site in class.

RESOURCE LINKS : through video lessons

Wes Fryer's Scratch intro page

Wes Fryer resource page

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Sharing File Templates via Evernote FTW!

Today is one of those days where I would swear there are only 3 things that matter in educational technology: workflow, workflow, and workflow.
Today's challenge is a colony poster for 5th grade.  The students have reseached their colonies and written their ad copy.  Today they are coming into the lab and using microsoft publisher to create an 11x 17 poster.
Eariler this year I worked with 4th grade to create a book in publisher.  I found that starting from a template helped focus the student's efforts on the skills I wanted them to learn in the lesson.  In this case we are asking the students to start from our template, and to build on it and go beyond.  A template for the poster that has placeholders for all of the required pieces is a great piece of scaffolding.
Today the 5th grade, who is not 1:1 but often uses our flexible groups of iPads, is coming into the lab to use the desktop computers.  These students spend part of their computing time using google drive and part of their computing time connected to our school server.  In many ways they have one foot in our old "local-server-based" storage and one in our new "cloud-based" storage model.
As a teacher this puts me time and again the the choice point of how to get files to my students.  While I strive for an exclusively google-drive based workflow, when I want my students to download a template, I really like using evernote to share a file.
The advantage is that the template if for microsoft publisher, and publisher looks for the file locally.  As soon as they click on the evernote file, they are prompted to download the file.
1. Once I got the template file from my partner teacher via email, I downloaded it onto my desktop and opened Evernote.  
2. I created a new note in Evernote and attanched the file.  
3. I clicked the "share" button and selected "Copy URL"
4. Then I opened the Google URL shortener and pasted the really long evernote URL into the URL shortener.
5. I generated shortcuts until I had one without 1, l, o, or 0 in it
6. I wrote that URL on the board and asked the students to download the file from there.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Using Skitch to Learn to Classify Toads and Frogs in First Grade

Here is a lesson I built with the help of my PLN. The goal is to get the first grade class thinking about classification using frogs and toads. Shoutouts and links at the bottom of the post.

These are Frogs:

Panamanian Golden Frog

Swimming Frog by Frank de Kleine

Gray Tree Frog

Green Frog

Frog by Gabor Kovacs

Hourglass Tree Frog

Dumpy Tree Frog by Leonora Enking

Panamanian Golden Frog

Red Tomato Frog

Rhaedo Haematiticus

Strawberry Dart DFrog by Geoff Gallice

Spotted Narrow Mouthed Frog by Thomas Brown
1. Copy one of more of these frogs to your Ipad By using "Click and Hold"

2. and open the app Skitch.

3. In Skitch, Label the picture as a frog and label the legs, the eyes and the skin of the frog. 

4. Share your picture by email, we will write the email on the board.

These are Toads:

Cane Toad

Woodhouse Toad by Matt Reinbold

New Mexico Spadefoot Toad

American Eastern Spadefoot

Short Legged Toad by Thosmas Brown

American Eastern Spadefoot Toad

Oriental Fire-bellied Toad
1. Copy one of more of these Toads to your Ipad and open the app Skitch.

2. In Skitch, Label the picture as a Toad and label the legs, the eyes and the skin of the Toad. 

3. Share your picture by email, we will write the email on the board.

Some sample student work: 

As time allows, we will explore the app Frog Finder
Or view a Brain Pop Jr on Frogs
Or Learn about identifying Cane toads
Another Great Activity for Learning about Frogs by  Kristen Wideen
Twitter and Tadpoles by  Kristen Wideen

Thanks for Melinda Sears and Lori Emilson for their help with brainstorming this lesson
All images licensed for commerical use and modification in creative commons.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

What does the Net Neutrality Ruling Mean for Schools?

Image from Open Media on Flickr
Even though I have been down with the flu this week, I did hear the news about the supreme courts "Net Neutrality" ruling. If you don't yet know what net neutrality is, here is a simple version that you can tell your grandkids: once upon a time there was the idea that all Internet content providers should have the same level of access to the Internet. This means that as an end user you could enjoy the same data speed if you were playing minecraft or if you were researching the effect of gamma rays on man in the moon marigolds.

With the ruling this week from the US supreme courts we could see ISPs charging companies and content providers more to have upload access to the Internet. So in short the net just went more free market on us. This is a bummer. No one knows for sure, but I would bet this is really bad news for that digital divide we are always fretting about.
The argument from the court seems to be that if the customer does not like the access one broadband provider gives them, the customer is free to switch to another ISP. While this sounds good in theory, the truth is that there is not enough broadband coverage in many parts of the US to support this.
Also it seems like educational institutions are not regular customers, through they seem to get no consideration in this ruling. I am not a lawyer and I have not read everything about this ruling, but I am worried that this is a development that could seriously impact the ability of schools to support digital learning. It could also really put a damper on the free apps so many of us like to use. The apps we use for free, cost money to develop and support and this ruling seems to be a harbinger of more costs for app and content providers.
The more I think on this, the more I can see our subscription services like Brain Pop and Discovery Education going up, possibly pricing out schools that struggle to find the funds for these content services.
As I am writing this I keep hearing the words of the Lorax “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It's not.” So as educators we need to speak up for broadband access for all schools. Even if they are making moves to stifle innovation in the open market, we need to continue to find ways to foster innovation in our schools.

Until we find a better way to fight this: Sign this Petition: (thinks Cue and Mark Wagner for the Link)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Writing a Learning Reflection

This is a post I use in 7th grade to get them working on a digital portfolio.

Read some samples from a great summer program

Writing a Learning Reflection
 One of the objectives to learning to use Blogger is that it is a great platform for building a digital portfolio of learning.  This portfolio allows you to showcase your learning products and process in a way others can access, share, and interact with.  What goes in your portfolio?  You will decide, but you begin by writing a learning reflection about something cool, amazing, awesome, or surprising that you learned or did. There are 2 focuses in a learning reflection your Product and Process.

  Product: You need to share something you created, and blogger allows you to do that easily.  Using the insert image or video buttons in the compose window.

 If you do something awesome in a class and you want evidence, ask the teacher if you can use your tablet and take pictures.  For Today you can describe the evidence you want to use and add it later if needs be.

 Process: Your learning reflection needs to take the reader through your process as a learner.  It should have a beginning a middle and an end. The beginning can include writing that answers the following questions:
 You can also share information from your
  • What did you know about this topic before?
  • How long have you been interested in this topic?
  • When you started this assignment or project did you think you could do it?
  • How confident were you it would be successful?
  • How did you feel at the beginning of the assignment or project?
The middle of your reflection should explain what you did and how you did it:
  • Step by step what did you do?
  • How did it go?
  • How did it feel?
  • What were the challenges and how did you overcome them?
  • Be sure to talk about everyone else who was involved, we rarely work alone.
The end of your reflection should:
  • Clearly state what you have learned
  • Help the reader understand how this project changed you
  • Describe how you would approach a challenge like this in the future
  • Talk about "What's next"  where are you going to take this learning or interest next
Once you have that done, get ready to share
 As we get ready to share our writing with others, we have to make sure it is as strong as possible.  This involves looking critically at our own writing and asking someone we trust with our writing to also take a close and critical look at it.  When we look at our writing we can do it in a number of ways. The First way is to read our work out loud.  This helps you make sure that it "reads" correctly.  You can also read out loud to a partner. The second thing you can do is write a bit about your writing, and then ask a partner to read your writing and also write about it.  We will be doing this together on Monday.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Setting up Feedly as a Reading and Sharing Platform

I love blogs, seriously/  The more I write them, the more I love them.  Blogs can take so many different shapes.  When I first started reading blogs, I didn't know where to start, now I often let my chatting help drive my blog reading. The way I figure it is that is I like chatting with someone I will find their blogging useful and engaging.
But once I decided to read someone's blog I lacked a workflow to keep the commitment. I don't like to subscribe to blogs as the blog is then delivered to my email, and it is HARD to get anything meaningful out of my email to a wide audience. (although just today I noticed there is an RSS reader built in to outlook)
I need my blog reading plaform to connect to my sharing tools.  I love the sharing platform built into triberr, but I can only include posts from the tribes I belong to or follow and not enough of my fellow edu bloggers are on triberr.
I have never done much with RSS feeds, either supplying them or collecting them.  I was impressed with the uproar last summer when Google killed their Rss feed collector google reader.
From what I have been able to gather, RSS readers are difficult to support because the platform is an interchange more than a page.  In short you are organizing page views for other websites.
As a teacher this is useful to me because my subscribing my reader to the blogs I want to read I can have an education "magazine" on my ipad created from the blogs I subscribe to.  For my initial setup, I decided to go with feedly.  And I started with the Blog Roll I have been building of registered participants in #PATUE, the pedagogy and technology used in education chat, now on THURSDAYs 6 PST.
The home screen set to index shows all of my sources sorted by those with unread posts and those without.
Since I started with a list of addresses it was fairly easy to build this feedly.  I clicked on the add content button, entered the blog address in the search field and Feedly located the feed or related feeds.  Some sites had multiple feeds and in those cases I was carfeul to grab the main site feed and not the comments only feed.
The benefits of using a reader like feedly are two fold, the first, as you see in the capture of the home screen, if presents the blogs you want to read in an attractive manner.  The layout is clean.  The real benefit though comes in the sharing tools.  This is also where the free version is differentiated from the pro version.  With a prosubscription you can easily save feedly article to any evernote notebook.  There is also improved workflow with pocket and instapaper.  As a free user I like the facebook and twitter share buttons, but  love the buffer integration.  I am a free user of buffer and this limits me to loading 10 tweets at a time, but buffer sends them out on a time schedule meant to match when your audience is online.  This is a great way to curate content for your followers and deliver it when they are most likely to be looking.